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Review: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott
Kelly O’Connor McNees
Putnam
April 2010
336 pp

Here is the blurb from the publisher:

Deftly mixing fact and fiction, Kelly O’Connor McNees imagines a love affair that would threaten Louisa’s writing career-and inspire the story of Jo and Laurie in Little Women. Stuck in small-town New Hampshire in 1855, Louisa finds herself torn between a love that takes her by surprise and her dream of independence as a writer in Boston. The choice she must make comes with a steep price that she will pay for the rest of her life.

The Short of It:

The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott has all of the charm of Little Women. The strong family dynamic is present as well as the promise of true love. A well-told story that’s a pleasure to read.

The Rest of It:

In 1855, the Alcott family moved to Walpole, New Hampshire. Not much is known about the real-life Alcotts but McNees chooses this time period to tell the tale of young Louisa. Strong-willed and stubborn, she  has a strong sense of family and an even stronger sense of pride. Determined to be a serious writer, she has no time for romance but when she meets Joseph Singer, she can’t quite explain the feelings that she has for him. Is it possible for a woman to have a career and a relationship without losing her sense of self?

I feel that it’s important to note that I have not read Little Women in its entirety. I started it ages ago and loved every bit of it, but then got sidetracked and never picked it up again. If my memory serves me, I got through about half of it, but it was enough for me to fall in love with the characters. I felt the same way about The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott. Although parts of it do include a bit of historical fact, it is a fictional tale of the family that inspired Little Women and I feel that it had the same feel as the classic that we’ve all come to love.

I know there are some hardcore fans of Little Women who’ll dig deep to find fault with this book, but there’s really no need for it.  As I was reading, I could tell that McNees adores the classic as much as the next reader (if not more) and the care she takes to breathe life into Louisa is genuine and well thought out. I adored Louisa and all of her sisters and although her parents proved to be frustrating at times, especially her father, I could literally see them upon the page.

The other part that I enjoyed quite a bit were all the literary references. I could easily see Louisa sitting in her room, reading Dickens. This is the type of book that book lovers love. It reads well, it includes characters that we already love, and it makes the classic even more appealing.

I do not feel that you need to read Little Women prior to reading TLSOLMA, but after reading this book, I now feel that I must finish Little Women.

Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Trish over at Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? for her April discussion of the book.